Moon, 66 Questions : ‘Berlinale’ Review – A delicate, understated look at the complexity of estranged realtionships
Taking care of another person is not just a job in itself, it’s a full-time responsibility that also involves getting physically and mentally involved and acquainted with another person. In Jacqueline Lentzou’s poetically titled “Moon, 66 Questions,” a daughter reunites with her estranged father when he is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Sofia Kokkali stars as Artemis. The only daughter to the now-divorced parents, forced to take responsibility for his father’s current ailment. Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulos) is the ailing father who on the offset feels like a regular joe who has been largely absent from her life. On the same note, Artemis has always considered him to be a stranger (refer to the opening scene where she talks about him to someone on the plane).
The new situation at the family front has put these two people at odds with each other. Artemis has to be kind and generous to this man who simply doesn’t communicate with her. Cue to a brilliant scene where she enacts how his father was borderline abusive of her asking for a sleepover with a few of her friends and you know the history. Paris, on the other hand, can’t do anything other than allowing his daughter to take care of her. This is a strange cross-road on the familial front – one they can’t escape and one they aren’t ready to face.
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Debutant director Lentzou is widely known for her acclaimed short films. Her films have won numerous accolades in the festival circuit, carving a niche for her. Pretty much like her shorts, “Moon, 66 Questions” is an unconventional, occasionally poetic look at familial structures. Using her keen eye for finding the rhythm in the mundane, she has yet again structured a soothing, melancholic, and complex look at a father-daughter relationship.
Since this is a pretty basic theme when it comes to stories about dysfunctionality, Lentzou uses smart techniques to investigate the universality of this situation. While it may seem problematic to some that a daughter is forced to take care of a supposedly abusive father, Lentzou maintains her distance from the reasons behind it for just the right amount of time. She builds up the silence between them with long, mostly static takes focused on Sofia Kokkali. These sequences are acutely transitioned to her trying to flow in her own rhythm and independence as she occasionally bursts out her frustration.
The narrative is also closely cut with videotapes dated up to 5 years. They mostly carry random information but are clued enough to let you know these characters a little better. This is why, when the third act opens up a few secrets lying bare under their roof, you don’t feel a sense of shock. The organic way in which Lentzou develops or redevelops the bond between the father and daughter really moves you.
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Lentzou also uses astronomy and astrology (refer to intermediate shots of sky & Tarot cards which serve as chapter headings) to slice up a delicate mix of the regressive atmosphere with a tranquil one. Much of the film’s weight is carried by Sofia Kokkali whose presence in this one is astounding. While we are never made aware of her age, this is styled as a coming-of-age narration where her rebellion and her maturity are ably shown with subtle moments of energy layout. The sequence where she dances while washing a car or the one in which she buries her body under bedsheets works like magic.
“Moon, 66 Questions” comes down to a predictable and inevitable end but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t moved by it. This is such a delicate, truly heartwarming revaluation of two distant souls that when the stars align and bring them together, words are always considered as afterthoughts.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Jacqueline Lentzou
EDITOR: Smaro Papaevangelou
DOP: Konstantinos Koukoulios
MUSIC: Delphine Malaussena
RUNTIME: 108 MINUTES